by Matt Bolton
“In the name of the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Amen”.
“Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was many years ago”.
“Continue my child.”
“I have been angry for a long time, as long as I can remember”.
“Do you know why you are angry?”
“Somebody hurt me when I was very young; someone I trusted. They hurt me deeply and over and over. These are the first tears I have shed in so long”.
The young man’s tears coursed down over his cheeks in hot, shameful floods. They were a purging, and gave the man space for the breath to continue.
“I have carried so much pain. I can’t remember when it wasn’t there. It is too much to bear and today I did something terrible. I couldn’t help it”.
He could hear the priest shifting in the wooden confessional next to his, making himself comfortable as if he had accepted his seat for a duration. The wood smelled old. Older than anything. It smelled of dust and ashes.
“God loves you and will forgive you. Go on child”.
“I awoke this morning from nightmares where I was being ripped from inside. I was being raped again. I was dreaming of my violations as a child. I can see the clock that was always ticking in the room where it happened. I can see that clock when I am awake. I can always see it. I would stare at it while he was raping me, and it would stare back. Even though I had only just awoken, I could tell I had been sobbing for a long time. I could no longer take the pain”.
“It is good to share this with God. It is the beginning of your healing”.
The young man was shaking and crying as if he were designed to do only those things.
“I went to the house where my torture happened. I was unable to control myself. It was as if I was possessed. I went inside and the clock was there. It’s ticking was unbearable. I can still hear it”
The young man began to shudder as if he would erupt, and his voice grew into a rasping, shout of pain. The priest seemed to him to be as still as death.
“I am only anger! That is all there is of me! I don’t remember who I am but that! I could burn the World and the heavens down with it! I picked up the clock and smashed it! I burned the house! I burned it all! It is ashes now, like me! Beata Virgo Maria! Father you must help me! I am burning with that fucking clock!”
The priest maintained his professional calm. The young man’s catholic latin had touched him unexpectedly, but not in a welcome way.
“Will you allow me to call a doctor? You can remain here as long as you like, and I will be here for you, but you will need help going forward”.
“It doesn’t matter what you do Father, I am at the end”.
The priest was suddenly cold at the incongruence of the young man’s strangely calm response.
“I will come back in a moment”.
The priest left his confessional and seemed to be greeted by a chill as he emerged. As he was dialing the number for the doctor, he thought of how much damage had been done to the young man, and how it would never be fully repaired. He felt a small tear escape as the feeling of compassion and love welled up in him, along with something unexpected. Something like shame or remorse.
He was still weeping gently when the doctor accompanied the young man from the church into the grey day’s fog.
As the priest was driving home, he reviewed the episode with the young man in his mind. The pain he had exhibited felt so visceral that he felt it could almost be touched. The priest had never experienced such a traumatic confession; never been so spiritually unnerved by anything he had faced before in his career. He had not been in this parish long, and it had seemed a friendly, quiet, rural community, making today’s horror all the more affecting. The poor boy must have been from elsewhere. He had offered every word and token of love and compassion that he could, and was pleased to note that he had done well in the circumstances, and that his actions had been naturally empathetic.
Yet, he could not shake this feeling of remorse.
As he approached the brow of the hill, beyond which was his parochial house in it’s small but pretty grounds, his mind turned to the large whiskey he would drink on his arrival.
Again his mind was tugged in a new direction as he smelled smoke. It was impossible to tell by sight where it was coming from as, for the whole day, the fog had not lifted.
His mind made the connection a moment before he came over the brow of the hill; half a second before he saw the black shape that should have been a familiar outline of home. His tears finally broke free of his eyes as he understood his hitherto vaguely perplexing feelings of guilt.
His car stopped as he stared at the ashes of his home, and tasted them in his mouth.